Best thing I got in 2019

Ok it’s a little late to be doing this, but I just thought of it because I’m sitting right here staring at it! And that is, my fave purchase last year – a giganto TV. It is 55″ and was about $320 during Black Friday. I say it’s my favorite, but it really goes hand in hand with my new computer. The old one was about eight years old and even though it was fine for browsing, it really struggled with running games like Sims. My Sims have been busy populating Sim world, growing enviable gardens, and climbing their career ladders ever since the new computer!

So I have been wanting a new TV for years – since August 2015 when the screen of our old TV started spazzing out. Our fix had been to turn it on and “warm it up” by playing any video on YouTube. It would clear up in a minute. Then 5 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Every year, Black Friday would come and go and I’d hem and haw, and then last minute decide, naw, we’ll wait another year. Then this year, it was having spasms at random times throughout use, even after it was warmed up. It was eyeball-hurting and headache-inducing. I finally said E-Nough! It has been such a relief to have a clear screen that doesn’t wobble or fritz.

Separately, I wanted to give a bit of a review on my online eyeglass purchase experiences, now that I have two under my belt.

  • The first time I got online glasses, I used Zenni. They were inexpensive and did the job. I wore them for a year and a half! But I could tell from the start that they were flimsy and loose and were just a bit rougher around the edges. Literally and figuratively. The lenses weren’t polished on the edges.
  • At the end of 2019, I got new glasses from EyeBuyDirect and let me just tell you, they are way nicer! Aside from the polished edges, the frames just feel sturdier and better quality. Also, I love that they don’t come with plastic cases. I have a whole drawer of eyeglass cases which I never use and even though I’ve donated a bunch, there are more! Like tribbles. Instead, EyeBuyDirect ships their glasses in hard cardboard boxes inside microfiber drawstring bags that double as lens wipes. Brilliant. Those I use regularly and I like to keep them in various places like one in my gym bag, one in the bathroom for when I’m getting ready in the morning, and one at work. The glasses are a bit pricier, but worth it in my opinion. I also got prescription sunglasses. They feel like such a luxury when I put them on. Finally, I can wear sunglasses without contacts.

Year 13

This is kind of a TS moment, being the 13th year of this blog. It’s a new decade so this blog has now spanned three decades – the aughts, 10s, and 20s. I’m not sure what the groundhog is thinking but I’m thinking spring is going to come early. This winter has been unusually mild.

So how am I doing with that 2020 resolution, now that it’s been about a week. The resistance bands I got some years back have finally justified the space they occupy. I just do a 45-minute or so bit of exercises and stretching in the evenings. It seems to help me digest after dinner and I seem to fall asleep more easily. I don’t do anything vigorous or strenuous but there’s definitely a burn and the stretching bit is nice afterwards. I’m hoping to keep this up as an evening ritual. All I need is a good tv show to keep me going.

Happy Rat!

Another New Year to celebrate! Renewal! Good fortune! And in particular good health! It’s nice to have the Lunar New Year follow so closely after the Gregorian calendar New Year, because this year, I spent January recovering from a flu which became bronchitis. So I slept for what felt like three weeks. I’m all good now. Even that last bit of lingering cough-hack is gone! (TCM trick for a stubborn cough: I stopped eating bananas and had daikon soup.)

2020, besides being a new decade, is also a leap year and the year of the rat. Rats are lovable and smart! To ring in this lovably smart new year, I cleaned the bathroom vanity and cooked vegetable noodles. All very lovable and smart activities to ring in an auspicious year.

Resolutions. I’ve been racking my brain since late 2019 and still haven’t really thought of anything. For the past few years it had revolved around reducing consumption. It’s become a habit now for the most part so I think I can safely move on and still lead a life of cognizant consumption.

So that brings me to my current thoughts on what to focus on this year. I’m feeling weak from laying about for three weeks so I think this year, I want to focus on strength and movement. Also, with strength, I’d like to revisit flexibility.

Update: ACV is not for my hair

I wrote this piece of drivel last year: Healthy Scalp Trick
Don’t do it. Or if you do, be very careful about it because vinegar is acidic and will throw your scalp off balance. I got major uncontrollable dander after doing it. So I did it some more. And it got worse and worse until I realized maybe it was the vinegar making things worse. Indeed, after washing my hair with nothing but a ton of conditioner did the scalp finally calm down. I basically was burning my hair with vinegar and turning it into a big mess.

If you still choose to try it, dilute it heavily and don’t leave it on your head very long and try to just do it on your hair and avoid it getting on your scalp (which is very hard).

How I inadvertently cut my food costs

In short:

  • Savings come from eating less processed everything. Besides saving money, it’s also more nutrient dense.
  • Cooking is effort. Eschewing processed foods has made food taste better with less effort. Also it’s my choice to be as lazy as our willingness to eat whatever I make. Boiled everything!
  • I acknowledge my privilege of not living in a food desert.

In tracking annual spending for the past four years I’ve observed that my lifestyle changes have led to a year over year trend of decreased food expenses.

2016201720182019
Dining Out$3,325.60$2,246.28$1,218.38$679.95
Grocery5,750.654,679.306,135.936,195.33
Total$9,076.25$6,925.58$7,354.31$6,875.28

Considerations:

  • Travel dining was counted as a travel expense rather than dining out or groceries. If I were to assume dining out and groceries at a conservative estimate of $100 a week, had we been home, below would be the adjusted totals.
    • 2016: 1 week on travel; total would have been around $9,200
    • 2017: 7 weeks on travel; total would have exceeded $7,600
    • 2018: 3 weeks on travel; total would have exceeded $7,700
    • 2019: no travel; no adjusted total
  • I counted everything as best as I could. A coffee at a gas station goes in the dining out category.
  • Big data fudge – I lost four months of 2019 data so I doubled the four prior months. Being creatures of habit, I don’t think it was far off. Dining out once a month and groceries are practically the same week after week.
  • Assuming three meals a day, our average per meal cost in 2019 was $3.15 a meal. This includes the grand total of all meals eaten out, in, takeout, and with friends.
  • For reference: USDA Food Nutrition Services Cost of Food at various Expense Tiers I fall in the Moderate Cost plan.

The biggest difference in reductions came from dining out. We spent over $3,000 in 2016 and this year, it was under $1,000. That’s an evening at French Laundry. Hopping off the hedonic treadmill of processed foods and generous servings of salt, oil, and sugar have made me enjoy food more. And I’ve slowly shifted my social activities to focus more on fun things to do rather than just sitting and eating.

Cooking does not have to be hard or time consuming. Devote as much or as little time as you’re willing to eat whatever you churn out. It is in your hands. I’ll admit, some of the stuff I make we don’t always like. Or I make it on repeat once too many times. We eat it anyway. I balance my willingness to cook with my willingness to eat. When I’m not willing to make multiple dishes that week for variety, we eat the same meal day after day. When I’m craving something akin to takeout Chinese, I’ll put in extra effort and make a few dishes. Example of minimal effort: I microwaved a whole head of cabbage and peeled the leaves and ate it. Food prep time was as much as microwaved popcorn. I highly don’t recommend this recipe.

I will acknowledge that if one lives in a food desert this is much more challenging. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by organic markets, farmers markets, international markets, you name it. Not a full on food desert, but I spent some time in middle-of-nowhere Kentucky years ago, where fresh produce was cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions week after never-ending week. One time, they had eggplant. I was over the moon. It’s do-able, but pretty sucky.

Finally, knowing there are a myriad of mixed messages about the connection between diet and health, I don’t want to get too into this, but I’m going to make two assumptions: processed food is less nutrient dense and it is detrimental to our gut microbiota. Given that, this is a healthier way to eat. Health is priceless.

Moral of the story: Outsourcing your food preparation is expensive. Eating whole foods like grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, is relatively affordable.

Obsession #917

Bonsai.

Ever since I got it in my head that I had to bonsai my clown plumeria in order to keep it in a pot, I’ve been doing a lot of research. After finally receiving my phD in bonsai-ing from the Universities of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, I’m now trying to grow citrus seeds and avocado pits to see if I can bonsai them as well. I’m a bit nervous about chopping down the plumeria but I think I can propogate the top in case the root base doesn’t make it. I’d also love to have a honeysuckle bonsai if I can get my hands on a cutting of the vine and I also have a jade plant to hack. Since today marks the shortest day of the year, I plan to start my chopping in a month or two. Growing season is the ideal time to cut.

Well that escalated quickly

Me: Oh look! There’s a person there on their couch. Is that a cat or dog on there?

Coworker: I think it’s a cat. They’re looking comfortable on the couch.

Me: I love watching the doggies and kitties across our office windows!

Coworker: You should get at pet!

Me: I know! I’ve been wanting rats.

Coworker: Rats?!

Me: Yeah, they’re so cute and they’re smart! They learn their names and will come when called.

Coworker: You should have kids.

Poppin’ some tags

Ok, by some, it was really one. For a thrifting excursion, that’s pretty good. I found a seemingly never worn cotton men’s crew neck sweater. The kind you can layer over a button down shirt, or just wear on its own. It was only $7! which is not the point of thrifting. I have to keep reminding myself of that when I get hand-me-down clothes from friends or when I find a deal. It’s not about the monetary value. It’s about the space I’m trading to hold this thing, whatever it may be. Real estate is valuable! Fill it with care. So yes, this particular item checked the appropriate boxes:

  • On my short list of things that I’m seeking
  • Natural plant fiber
  • Comfortable
  • Layer-able and mix and matchable with multiple bottoms
  • Work and casual appropriate
  • Pleasing color (lemon yellow but not neon) – Flattering
  • In good condition and seemingly well-made; will hold up
  • Machine washable
  • Bonus: not made in China.

I’m still slowly draining my overflowing closet. Turning the spigot off to a slow trickle is helping, but boy did this sweater give me a nice dopamine rush.

The fabric of my life

I zealously (seems to be the only way I do anything) hopped aboard the synthetic activewear bandwagon because they were ubiquitous (still are). I was leggins to the grocery store, leggins for travel, leggins with tunics on casual Fridays, leggins to the gym of course. It was leggins for mah life! And eight pairs of leggings and three years later, I have come to the conclusion that even though leggings are nice, I prefer my clothes non-synthetic. Nothing is more breathable than cotton. Yes sweat, but I change out of my sweaty exercise clothes regardless of fabric.  And skin being the largest organ in our body, constantly breathing, taking things in, I am not sure if covering it with plastics is the best way to go.  Note: I have done zero science research fueling this concern.  It’s just how I feel. Still, I’ll wear what I have, still take them to the gym, still handy for light-packing travel as they can wash and dry overnight anywhere. Going forward though, they’ll be replaced by cotton.  But aside from the gym and on travel, I won’t live in them anymore.  I don’t treat them as loungewear or weekend errand-run clothes.  That’s where old school cotton sweatpants come in, or jeans if you want to be fancy!